Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mrs. Schlafly Regrets

Phyllis Schlafly has always embodied the soul of hard-core conservatism; leading the fight against the ERA in the 1970’s and speaking out against women’s liberation, which she thinks is designed to shatter marriages and keep women from doing their wifely duties such as staying home and raising the children. Ironically, she must have spent a great deal of time outside of the home (did anyone ever ask Mr. Schlafly what he thought about that?). Recently she was out and about, lecturing America on the latest plot of the leftists and the welfare queens — embodied in the Obama administration — to ruin America for white conservative patriarchy: they’re going to have more babies.

One of the things Obama’s been doing is deliberately trying to increase the percentage of our population that is dependent on government…For example, do you know what was the second biggest demographic group that voted for Obama? Obviously the blacks were the biggest demographic, yall know what was the second biggest? Unmarried women. 70% of unmarried women voted for Obama. And this is because when you kick your husband out, you’ve got to have Big Brother Government to be your provider. And they know that. They’ve admitted it. And they have all kinds of bills to continue to subsidize illegitimacy, which is now nationwide, running at 41%. 1.7 million babies were born in our country illegitimately last year. The Obama administration wants to continue to subsidize this group because they know they are Democratic votes. Republicans never could have given the amount of money they are going to get. And as Ronald Reagan said, if you subsidize something you are going to get more of it, and if you tax it you’re going to get less of it.

Well, I suppose it’s a saving grace on Mrs. Schlafly’s part that she referred to “the blacks” instead of “the coloreds.” Small steps. As Robin Marty notes, these are the same people who fought birth control and access to abortion. I guess Mrs. Schlafly thinks they’re having the wrong babies.

On a larger scale, it is not at all surprising to hear this kind of sentiment from Mrs. Schlafly. She represents an age and a mindset that believes that people — especially certain races and classes — should know their place. The idea of equal rights for all is fine as long as it’s all the right kind of people. And as a product of a generation and a culture that venerated the social graces and a strict class structure, it is inconceivable to her that anyone would want it any other way.

I know people like Mrs. Schlafly. I grew up in such a culture, where the Social Register and country club membership was a sign of “good breeding,” so to speak. They are, according to Stephen Birmingham, The Right People. They attended the right church, they sent their children to the right schools, they spent their leisure time in the right places: all of them with overt covenants that limited membership and attendance to the right people. If you called them out for using the term “colored” or “Negro” they would be genuinely shocked; not because they are using a racist terms but because someone found their behavior to be ill-mannered. To this day these Upper Crustaceans are convinced that “the blacks” are not ready for acceptance in the upper class, that there is something in their blood that keeps them from acquiring the necessary skills and taste for being a part of the world where white men and women can sit at the same table as a black couple for the Labor Day Tea Dance at the country club. Regardless whether or not you grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati or St. Louis, the only black people who lived in the white part of town were the live-in maids, and the only time a white man showed up in the black section was when the cops were called.

The Right People would never give any credence, however, to the more radical elements of the conservative movement today. The Tea Partiers may be largely white, but they are staunchly middle-class and tacky; they would only be in contact with them if they wanted a plumber on weekends. Fundamentalists, too, are not of their liking; boisterous religious expression doesn’t fit in well with the Episcopalians. Likewise they dismiss the “birthers” as cranks. It doesn’t matter where Barack Obama was born; he could be from St. Louis or Richmond Heights and he would still not be acceptable to them as the President of the United States. He would, however, be a credit to his race as the president’s valet.

Fortunately, there is a sizable number of people of that ilk and generation who, unlike the ossified Mrs. Schlafly, have emerged from the shadow of the past to embrace and encourage the change; I count my parents and a number of their friends and children — all who grew up with the culture — among them. To change, to grow, to progress is a true sign of class.

HT to digby.